Review: Death in the Ladies’ Goddess Club by Julian Leatherdale

Title: Death in the Ladies’ Goddess Club

Author: Julian Leatherdale

Published: March 3rd 2020, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read March 2020, courtesy Allen & Unwin

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My Thoughts:

“…she had sat at her typewriter, happily composing a murder scene for her novel. And now here she was thrust without warning into the middle of a real one, the unspeakably gruesome death of someone she knew.”

By day, Joan Linderman is a subeditor for a leading womens magazine, while at night she works on a crime novel she hopes to one day have published. But when her downstairs neighbour is discovered with her throat slashed, the line between fiction and fact becomes blurred, and Joan finds herself caught up in a tale of murder, blackmail, violence, and betrayal.

“Crime’s not a woman’s business, Joanie. It’s not some bloody game.”

The murdered woman, a prostitute, is more acquaintance than friend, so Joan is shocked when she finds a note that suggests a connection between Ellie and her rich, estranged uncle and aunt, former Major now lawyer, Gordon Fielding-Jones, and his wife Olympia. Leatherdale provides a complex mystery as Joan’s amateur investigation into the link takes surprising twists and turns through the stratum of society.

“It was a frightening, chaotic time for those who lived in the cross and its environs, but Joan felt an indescribable thrill to be living on the edge of this vortex of violence.”

What I particularly enjoyed about the novel was Leatherdale’s depiction of the social and political schism in Australia during the 1930’s. In the post World War I period, as the Great Depression steadily widened the gap between the haves and have nots, Sydney was the epicentre of unrest as the New Guard railed against Lang’s progressive government, the communist party tried to rally the masses against the upper class, razor gangs ruled the streets, and the bohemian community expressed its disdain for it all. The author brilliantly captures the divisions and overlap of these groups from the double agents amongst the political parties, to the criminal supply of drugs to the upper classes. The ceremonies of the Ladies Bacchus (aka Goddess) Club, are an elitist version of the uninhibited bohemian parties, without any recognition of the irony. The author also touches on issues such as the struggle of injured returned soldiers from the Great War, womens rights, and the marvel that was the construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

“For now she was heartily sick of this world of men’s making, of so much cruelty and suffering.”

An engaging historical mystery with a noir-ish feel, I enjoyed Death in the Ladies Goddess Club by Julian Leatherdale.

++++++

Available from Allen & Unwin RRP AUD $29.99

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Also by Julian Leatherdale reviewed at Book’d Out